Category Archives: PR copywriting training

PR 101: Four ways to improve your writing

With 2012 well under way – and plans to launch Buzzwords’ new copywriting courses (online and face-to-face) at an advanced stage – what better time could there be to spill a few beans on how to improve your PR writing. Here are four things that may set you thinking:

1. Use short, simple words

Don’t show off! French phrases and rare words might cut it in certain circles, but copywriting is all about communication.  You need to make sure ALL your readers know what you’re talking about without them having to scurry off for a dictionary (or, worse still, abandoning any attempt to read your gems altogether!).

2. Know who you’re writing for

Create a mental picture of who your readers might be.  Think about their age, interests, educational level, social influences and so on.  What will turn them on?  And what might put them off?  These are largely common sense things, but it’s wise to give them a thought before you start blazing away on the keyboard.

3. Research your subject

With business-to-business PR, you’re talking to specialists.  With consumer PR, you’re talking to savvy consumers who will twig right away that you’re not really on their wavelength and therefore not worthy of too much of their time.  Research material is everywhere on the Internet – so use it!.  You don’t need to regurgitate dry facts.  Think around the subject.  Put facts and events in the context of your own particular message.  Be relaxed in your writing by all means; but most of all, make sure you’re credible.

4. Aim high – and keep it that way!

Quality PR writing is all about clarity and energy.  If you can achieve that in everything you write, then your readers will stay with you until the bitter end.  If you’ve read this far, you’ll know what I mean!

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Press Releases: Four Simple Ways to Make Sure Yours Stand Out

By Nicholas Beeson, Marketing Associate, Buzzwords Manchester

Editors get hundreds of press releases a week – and most of them bite the dust. Why should this be? It’s obviously important that your release is professionally written. More important, however, is your content. This will be the decider when it comes to whether your release is read and used.

To save you from the agony of rejection, here are four simple ways to make sure your press release stands out from the crowd and that it is actually published:

  • Make sure the subject of your release is relevant to the readership of the publication

Sounds obvious, but many people forget this. The information and story in your release need to be important to the publication’s readership, and not just to your business.

  • Don’t use your press release as a means of free advertising

Editors are wised-up to companies using press releases as free advertising, and can distinguish a genuine press release from ‘advertising in disguise’. Trying to use press releases as a means of free advertising will almost certainly see your release in the bin. Press releases do provide a great means of publicity, but write your publicity to give news or information only.

  • Short and simple is key

Editorial space is limited, meaning your release needs to be short and to the point. Write clear and concise sentences using only the important, relevant information. Avoid jargon, repetition and create lively text that is relevant to the publication’s readership.

  • The release should be able to stand on its own

If you feel a cover letter – or e-mail – is needed to explain why you have sent the press release or why it should be published, then the release isn’t good enough in the first place. Editors should want to publish your press release, so there’s no need to bother with a letter or explanatory e-mail.

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The PR Agency – And New Turks on the Block!

The latest edition of PR Week magazine features an article about PR agency structures. On the face of it, that may seem like the most boring topic in the world. For anyone in the agency business, however, it’s endlessly fascinating!

We all know that the media and marketing landscape has changed dramatically in the past few years. It’s interesting to ask how PR agencies have responded in terms of their structure and operational approach. It also begs the question: has there been any NEED to change PR agency business models?

If we’re talking here about the rise and rise of social media, another more apposite question might be: have agency people got to grips with the new social media and digital marketing age?  All the changes in the world that are made to ‘structures’ won’t affect anything if PR agency people are ignorant about the new Turks on the block.

Now, if new structures (or new business models) are devised that accommodate new-age media and marketing, then we may be getting somewhere.  If, on the other hand, there’s some nebulous shifting of deck-chairs along the lines of ad agencies (or even, god forbid, along the lines of responding to client needs!), then a lot of people are surely missing the point. 

Effective responses to change reside in people – not structures.  Flattened corporate hierarchies went a long way in recent decades towards liberating the energies of workforces across many sectors.  The beauty of the agency world – PR, advertising, design, marketing and the rest – is that traditionally they have been small enough to avoid the fug of ‘corporateness’.

By virtue of being ‘small’ (in corporate terms), agencies tend to be flexible, creative and adaptable.  Trying to apply business school organisational theory to agencies runs the risk of destroying the informal structures that made them so effective in the first place.

It will always make sense, of course, to look at how companies of any description are organised.  Getting the most out of people and other resources is the driving force behind business progress.

As far as PR agencies are concerned,  that needn’t involve structural change.  Rather, the issues are about individual mind-sets and effective leadership that will embrace change and run with it – hopefully into the arms of grateful clients. 

Who in the agency world can honestly say they know where social media is taking us?  Some will have a good grasp of the impact social media has already had and the changed context that the digital marketing world has created.  What no-one can foresee is where it’s all heading.

Less than 20 years ago, search engines weren’t on anyone’s radar.  Five years ago or so, the likes of Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and LinkedIn were marketing unknowns.  What will happen in the next ten years – and the impact it will have on marketing – is almost impossible to predict. 

Changes made to agency structures now may be obsolete or, even worse, hopelessly inefficient in five or six years time.  The best way to respond to change is to keep things informal and generate a culture of  awareness and responsiveness to the kaleidoscope of  ideas, technology and techniques that are no doubt spooking ‘traditional’ agencies in 2011.

It’s right that people in the PR industry are questioning the status quo.  Change can be a threat if it’s not addressed.  With the appropriate responses, however, it can present new worlds of opportunity.  Age-old arguments about whether PR people should be ‘generalists’ (for which, read: G & T-tainted dilettantes) – or specialists in areas such as social media, web development or video obviously raise questions about how people-skills are organised within agencies.

Yes, we know that these skills go down in the lift every night.  PR is a ‘people business’.  Not surprisingly, though, people don’t respond well to the heavy hand of ‘structural engineering’, particularly when it constrains their creative side. 

Surely, a more productive approach would be to focus on individual development, ‘training’ if you will.  In an age where the rate of change is accelerating beyond belief, constant skills appraisal and injection (not the more complacent-sounding Continuous Professional Development!) should be a bigger priority than changing job titles, departments and command chains.

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How to write a press release

Can you teach someone how to write a press release? Or is it like so many aspects of copywriting for PR, a matter of instinct and innate flair?

There’s a new page on Buzzwords’ main website outlining the main points to consider when writing a press release. Much of it is common sense. Anyone tasked with the job of writing press releases will quickly find out what’s required.

Let’s face it: the elements are simple. First, there’s a headline followed by the body copy and then finished off with contact details (and possibly some supplementary information included at the very end of the release under the heading ‘Notes for Editors’).

It’s probably more important to understand what a press release is for, and how the news you want to announce can be best presented to editors. The mechanics of what goes where in a release should be a matter of course for anyone whose work involves sales and marketing!

Top of this list is understanding that news releases are about presenting information in a clear and logical way. They are not advertising pieces which set out to persuade people to buy. In other words, the facts should speak for themselves.

It is also vital to make sure that both editors and the ultimate readers of your release have ways of making contact. For editors, this is so they can ask for more information. For the reader of the published release, they will obviously need to know who to contact for information about how to secure the services or products described in the release.

Again, this is all common sense. Tips about eye-catching headlines, including quotes in the text and summarising your message in the opening paragraphs are obviously useful. Very soon, however, these will become second nature to regular writers of press releases.

(To find out more, visit the relevant page on Buzzwords’ website. You’ll find it by clicking on the ‘Copywriting for PR’ tab on the main navigation bar.)

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PR copywriting training – Manchester, Cheshire, Liverpool, Lancashire

Half-day one-to-one copywriting training modules are now being provided by Buzzwords from its offices in Knutsford, Cheshire (south Manchester).

Interested individuals start with a two-hour Assessment in Knutsford to identify what is expected of the subsequent training sessions.  A written report is provided which sets out future training recommendations.

This highly personalised approach uses a copywriting coaching model to make sure that the training is tailored to an individual’s specific needs, such as how to write news releases, articles, websites and so on.

Buzzwords’ one-to-one training will be useful for:

  • Aspiring copywriters (who want a new career as a copywriter but maybe aren’t sure where to start)
  • Owners of small or medium-size businesses (SMEs) who want to take the copywriting function in-house and save themselves money
  • Employees in larger organisations who want to broaden their copywriting knowledge and improve their writing skills.

The initial Assessment and Report costs £POA + VAT.

Half-day training modules cost £POA + VAT

For more details, call Mike Beeson on 01565 654023 or visit Buzzwords’ website at: buzzwords.ltd.uk/copywriting_training_courses.htm (adding  the ‘www’ prefix).

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